Avon, ‘the company for women’ hurts women in the Philippines

27.01.2016

All across America, Europe and Asia, Avon is well known for its cosmetics and home products used by millions of women who themselves are part of the company’s direct sale agents.

In the Philippines, Avon’s production plant is located in Calamba industrial zone outside Manila. The plant employs mainly women and only about 120 of them are directly employed, while other 350 are working through labour agencies. Those working through the agencies are employed on minimum monthly wage of PhP 7000 (US$ 146). Many of these contract workers have been performing jobs that are part of the core business of the company for years. They work on production lines together with their regularly employed colleagues.

This practice is illegal since according to national legislation a worker performing the same job for company for more than one year should be granted regular employment. Avon engages labour agencies to act as their bogus employers and deprives these workers of job security and social benefits, which are essential for their families.

Mostly aged between 20 and 25, the female workers were attracted to work for Avon by the idea that ‘the company for women’ would give them a better future. But after years of working without security and the benefits they deserve, they realize that they are getting only empty promises.

A few days before Christmas when the whole country was preparing to celebrate the biggest festival and holiday, Avon management ordered the termination of 16 worker representatives who had questioned their employment practices and alleged that Avon had breached rules and regulations regarding the use of precarious employment and short term contract for works done in the company’s production lines.

Avon local management accused the workers’ reps for conducting an ‘illegal strike’ in September 2015 when they were in collective bargaining for an agreement on working conditions that would be effective from February 2014 until January 2017. The final round of negotiations took place in September and the collective agreement was signed by the union and management on 16 September 2015. 

Following the signing of the new collective agreement, the workers were surprised to learn that Collin Whittington, Avon’s General Manager for the Philippines, had accused them of conducting an illegal strike and filed a case in order to discharge them from work.

The dismissed representatives have an average of 20 years in service each. Apart from many family members whose lives depend on them, the 32 children currently in school will soon be forced to drop out unless their mothers and fathers are reinstated in the jobs.

Avon is a US multinational company with headquarters in New York and production facilities in 39 countries across five continents.

IndustriALL Global Union’s Asia Pacific Executive Committee met in Tokyo last week and passed a resolution supporting the workers and dismissed unionists of Avon Philippines Employees Union in their fight for reinstatement and against precarious work at Avon Products Manufacturing plant in the Philippines.

“Unlike the company’s slogan that says ‘Beauty is the journey, empowerment is the destination’, the women who make Avon products in the Philippines are far from being empowered with the precarious employment Avon has offered them,”

says Chit Dodd, President of Confederation of Labour & Allied Social Services (CLASS) and member of IndustriALL Global Union’s Executive Committee.

"While Avon Corporate Governance states that the company is committed to ‘compliance with both the letter and spirit of all applicable laws and regulations’, Avon’s practice in the Philippines is contradictory to the country’s labour law which prohibits Labour Only Subcontracting,”

said Sannie Santos, Avon union president.

In Septebmer 2015 in his letter to the company Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union strongly urges Avon Products Manufacturing "to stop attacking union officials, drop any frivolous lawsuits against workers, and take immediate remedial actions to restore decent working conditions at the manufacturing plant in the Calamba Premiere Industrial Park, Barangay Batino, Calamba City, Laguna, Philippines." The company failed to respond so far.